I Drove a $240,000 Lamborghini, and Lived to Tell Tinder
I have no problem admitting that I can be a scared little boy. I have many fears. Public speaking scares me, germs scare me, staying in a cabin scares me, the ocean scares me, foreigners scare me, driving over bridges scares me, traveling scares me, strangers scare me, babies scare me, anything remotely adventurous scares me… If I haven’t made it clear, I am easily frightened by most things. My ideal vacation is sitting in my bedroom watching TV, periodically heading to the local mega-pharmacy to re-up on hand sanitizer. My doctor diagnosed me with having a condition known as, “you’re an embarrassing wimp, get out of my office.” The worst part… there’s no medication for that.
So, when Supercompressor told me they were working with Gillette Clear Gel on a series of stories designed to “pull guys out of their comfort zone, then drop them in brand new zones that were absolutely not comfortable,” this was an easy "pass." But then I heard what they wanted me to do -- “Head to Exotics Racing in Fontana, CA, and take five extremely fast laps in a Lamborghini Gallardo Superleggera…” Ugh.
Yes, “speed” is one of my phobias, but I couldn't turn this down. My brother and dad are HUGE car guys. My dad subscribes to car magazines, delights in racing cars, spends his free time in Internet car talk forums, etc. Somehow, this passion was lost on me. But, I’ve brought so much shame to my family already, I knew that if I didn’t grab this opportunity to get paid for the totally miserable task of driving a Lamborghini, they would never let me live it down.
Cut to one week later, and I’m pulling into Exotics Racing. Fontana, their newest track, is a low-banked, D-shaped oval, with a 1,600-foot straight-away and eight turns. I was, to put it mildly, freaking out. Headlines such as "Babyman Journalist Somehow Manages to Drive Lamborghini Off A Cliff Three Miles Away From Race Track” flashed through my mind.
After a quick introduction to Exotics’ General Manager -- whose very name, Evens Stievenart, suggested he broke land speed records over breakfast -- I sat down with the other racers for the safety tutorial. I’m sure it won’t come as a shock to you that out of the twenty or so racers seated with me, I was the only person taking notes.
Within the first two minutes of the tutorial, the instructor giddily explained that the track has no speed limit, and its very reason for existence is to get you to go as fast as possible. The other drivers all pumped their fists excitedly as a bead of sweat started to form on the side of my head. The instructor asked the crowd “Who came here to drive fast?!” and everyone, with the exception of me, shot their hand up. I was hoping he was gonna follow that up with “and who came here to drive responsibly and not die?!,” but it never came.
After safety school, I was outfitted with a helmet and sent with an instructor for a practice lap to observe how he handled the paddle shifting. It was petrifying. This man had clearly driven a car before. I was too busy praying that we wouldn’t flip over to focus on his mechanics. Back at the staging area, I wanted to yell, “OKAY, I get the point! I have enough for the article! Going home now.” But I was determined to get through this, so I just smiled and offered cool appraisals like “great engine on that baby.” Even though I’m afraid of engines, and babies.
Now, it was my time to take the wheel. Before I’d even seen my car, I was twitching with nerves. At least I wasn’t sweating through my shirt! The Gillette Clear Gel I'd applied that morning allowed me to focus all my attention on my upcoming death ride, rather than frantically drying my pits with the bathroom’s hand dryer. For that, I am thankful.
After steeling myself, I came face-to-face with my chariot -- the Lamborghini Gallardo Superleggera. I knew nothing about it outside its mention in many-a-rap song. If it were possible for a car to kick sand in a man’s face and walk away with a beautiful woman, this would be the car to do it. I took a couple quick shots for my various online dating profiles and upcoming rap and/or hair metal album.
I just hope the fact that I’m wearing a helmet in the pictures doesn’t out my lie to girls that “yeah, that’s my everyday car. I feel kinda flashy driving it, but I’m a big car guy, so I love it.”
I hopped in the driver’s seat and prepared to make my fears bow down to me like an ancient Sumerian king. When you get into a Lamborghini, it doesn’t feel like you’re getting into a car, so much as it feels like you’re about to get launched into space. After a final quick safety lesson from my instructor, I buckled up, started the car, texted my family that I loved them, and approached the track.
The sheer power of the engine is like something I’ve never experienced. The car can go from zero to 60 in about three seconds! If you round down, that’s zero seconds, which means it’s going 60mph even when it’s not running. This car is intimidatingly fast. As other cars zoomed around me, I struggled to get acclimated to the intensity.
My instructor was great -- yelling when I should downshift, upshift, and quit driving like an old lady -- but the first lap or so were rough. The car is so powerful that every time you feel the thrill of real speed, you’re simultaneously filled with the fear that if you don’t slow down well before the next turn you’ll go careening through the barricades.
Even as I pulled some shamefully premature slowdowns, though, I couldn’t deny the intense euphoria I felt as I mastered this metal dragon. Testosterone was practically dripping out of my ears (it turned out to just be blood... jk), and I felt how a man is supposed to feel. I immediately wanted to tear into a steak, watch football, and not ask for directions. I got why car culture is so appealing, why millions of dudes are into racing. Now I just needed to get better at it.
Lessons I’d thought I’d missed must have reached my brain through osmosis. By my fifth lap, I was experiencing the full power of the beast. I got it up to 115mph at one point! Granted, it was for a fraction of a second, but it happened. I wasn’t the one being passed anymore; I was the one who passed. I felt like I could conquer anything… but of course right when I was getting the hang of it, my five laps were over. Still, it was sweet. Would I be hitting the pro circuit any time soon? I doubted it. But I would be hitting the Proud Of Myself circuit (lousy pay, but great benefits).
Or would I? Right when I returned to the staging area, I was informed about Bomac. Who or what is Bomac? I was told that I would be sitting shotgun with him as he demonstrated “drifting”. This was not part of the plan. I knew that I’d be driving the Lamborghini, but I was in control of that, and had learned to be even more in control of that -- staying calm when you’re at someone else’s mercy is a whole different skill set.
Bomac didn’t speak. I couldn’t see his face. There was no reassuring, “Don’t worry, this will be fun!” just an occasional grunt. Bomac was not a person; he was an idea. And the idea was to give me a heart attack.
We peeled out of the staging area and unloaded on the course. This might come as a shock, but Bomac was a better driver than me -- even than the new, more confident me. This man knew his way around a racetrack, and probably all sorts of other places as well. I spent the next three minutes gripping the side panel so hard that I'm surprised my knuckles didn't break through my skin. Bomac fed off my terror. I wouldn’t be surprised if he subsisted solely on fear. He will now be able to hibernate for the rest of the winter.
But guess what? Spoiler alert -- I survived! Bomac did not break me. By the end of our ride, we were giving each other pounds, and I was yelling at him to crank it up. Once I got back to the staging area and reflected on what I’d just done, I realized, “Whoa, that was insanely fun!” It was better than any roller coaster I’d ever been on. I’d thought back to all the times that I’d let fear dictate my actions and it killed me, or at least lightly maimed me. Going forward, I’m taking that sentiment with me into all areas of my life. Next time you see me with a supermodel draped on one arm, a big bag of money in the other, and I’m on the cover of some magazine for being “Chillest Dude Of The Year,” you’ll know what I did to get there.
And what do I have to show for my harrowing yet rewarding experience other than some sweet new pics sure to set my various social media platforms on fire? A certificate! Not one, but two! Lest anyone ever questions the validity of my driving claims, I have the paperwork to back it up. I also plan on adding “Lamborghini Superleggera Driver” to the Skills section of my resume, and will now have a new answer for “Highest Level of Education” on any forms I fill out.
I'd like to thank Supercompressor and Gillette Clear Gel for giving me the opportunity to face my fears without staining the pits of my favorite 3/4 length softball ring tee, and a HUGE thank you to the instructors at Exotics Racing for giving me a really fun experience that didn’t end with my charred remains being scraped off the cement. This was a day that I won't soon forget. And will probably soon embellish, because apparently 115mph isn’t as fast as I thought it was.